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Clarification Appended

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) predicted Wednesday that the House is unlikely to convene a lame-duck session this year, while at the same time defending an agenda Republicans have attacked as light on substance.

“I think that I am hopeful to get out by the end of September,” Hoyer said at a press conference. “The first two weeks are Jewish holidays in October. We are not going to be back here. The last two weeks are the election. We are going to have a new president.”

“I think a lame-duck session is not very productive. But it has not been discussed,” Hoyer added. The Maryland lawmaker made his forecast in response to a query about whether Democrats would schedule a vote on the Colombia free-trade agreement following the November elections. The House is expected to delay action on that bill indefinitely in a vote today [see related story, p. 1].

Republican leaders criticized Democrats since returning from the two-week March recess for a schedule reflecting a thin agenda, populating the floor with minor bills or measures considered under suspension of the rules, a tactic applied to noncontroversial legislation that limits debate and requires a two-thirds majority for passage.

“This is the second week of April, not the second week of October, and it would appear that Democrats have already knocked off for the election, and there’s still plenty of time left to do good things for the American people,” GOP Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) said Tuesday.

But Hoyer dismissed those accusations Wednesday, asserting the House is addressing significant issues, including the Iraq War, the housing crisis and other areas in committee hearings, although legislation might not be ready for the floor.

“That misses the point of what is being done. … Everything that we do is not done on the floor. It’s done in committees,” Hoyer said, later adding: “The Republicans have decided that they’re going to pretend that there is not a lot going on on very important issues. They just happen to not be ripe for the floor right now.”

Lauren W. Whittington contributed to this report. Clarification: April 15, 2008 The article contained an inaccurate statement from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who was misquoted in a transcript of his remarks at last week’s pen and pad. In discussing bills in committee, he said, “They just happen to not be ripe for the floor right now.”

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